The Motherhood Affidavits

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“Motherhood, complicated and personal.”—The New York Times

With the birth of her first child, professor Laura Jean Baker finds herself electrified by oxytocin, the “love hormone”—the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Over time, her “oxy” cravings, and her family, only grow—to the dismay of her husband, Ryan, a freelance public defender. As her reckless baby-making threatens her family’s middle-class existence, Baker identifies more and more with Ryan’s legal clients, often drug-addled fellow citizens of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Is she any less desperate for her next fix?

Baker is in an impossible bind: The same drive that sustains her endangers her family; the cure is also the disease. She explores this all-too-human paradox by threading her story through those of her local counterparts who’ve run afoul of the law. As Baker vividly reports on their alleged crimes—theft, kidnapping, opioid abuse, and even murder—she unerringly conjures tenderness for the accused, yet increasingly questions her own innocence.

Baker’s ruthless self-interrogation makes this her personal affidavit—her sworn statement, made for public record. With a wrenching ending that compels us to ask whether Baker has fallen from maternal grace, this is an extraordinary addition to the literature of motherhood.

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